As It Happens

Lesbian founder of UK Black Pride turns down MBE from Queen

The founder of UK Black Pride, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, has turned down an honor from the Queen on principle.

Opoku-Gyimah was flattered to be offered the Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen for her service to the community but refused it because the legacy of British colonial rule is ‘toxic’.

She felt it was important for her to say no, as a trade unionist and an out black African lesbian.

Opoku-Gyimah told GSN: ‘Over the years, I’ve heard people say “I wouldn’t accept” and then they’ve accepted.

‘Whilst that’s fine and great for them, and huge respect for them wanting that accolade for the work they do, I cannot accept something I don’t believe in.

‘The legacy of colonialism is toxic and continues today. One way of showing solidarity is truly standing behind our friends in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana.

‘It’s not that I’m doing this for them but I wouldn’t stand for something that is an injustice and an insult to the lives they are living.’

The British criminalized homosexuality throughout their empire. While the UK has now repealed the laws, they live on in 40 out of 53 countries that were former British colonies and now part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Opoku-Gyimah said: ‘I did think there would be aspects of the community who would say “you bloody fool, why did you turn it down?”

‘But people have been really positive and said they are glad I’ve stuck by my principles. The number of messages has just been unreal and I feel quite overwhelmed by them.

‘I am truly honored and grateful and I love being British but not the British Empire.’